Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly homosexual bishop of his denomination, has angered traditionalist Anglicans by suggesting that Jesus Christ might have been homosexual.

Robinson, who left his wife – and mother of his two daughters – to cohabit with his male lover, Mark, made his inflammatory remarks during an address titled, “Homosexuality and the Body of Christ: Is There a New Way?” at Christ Church of Hamilton and Wenham, Massachusetts. The bishop was asked by a congregant how Christians could both accept homosexuality and the Bible’s emphasis on redemption for sins.

“Interestingly enough, in this day of traditional family values,” answered Robinson, “this man that we follow was single, as far as we know, traveled with a bunch of men, had a disciple who was known as ‘the one whom Jesus loved’ and said my family is not my mother and father, my family is those who do the will of God. None of us likes those harsh words. That’s who Jesus is, that’s who he was at heart, in his earthly life.

“Those who would posit the nuclear family as the be all and end all of God’s creation probably don’t find that much in the gospels to support it,” he concluded.

“Rubbish,” responds David Virtue who operates VirtueOnline, a website that bills itself as “the voice for global orthodox Anglicanism.”

“It is appalling deconstructionism from the liberal lobby which will spin even the remotest thing to turn it into a hint that Biblical figures are gay,” says Virtue. “It is so utterly preposterous to imply that Jesus’ relationship with John was homo-erotic, but twisting the truth is the only way these people can get scriptural justification for their lifestyles. Can you imagine Calvin, Luther or Erasmus saying something like this? It is a wonder that thunder and lightning bolts don’t strike Bishop Robinson down.”

Canon Chris Sugden, spokesman for the traditionalist organization, Anglican Mainstream, also disputes Robinson’s use of scripture and the implications he draws from them.

“He’s really selective in what he’s addressing,” says Sugden. “He makes no mention of Jesus’ teaching on marriage, for instance. And he does not acknowledge that nowhere in the text or in ancient literature is there any suggestion of any form of sexual impropriety among Jesus or the disciples. Jesus broke the cultural traditions of the time and has women mixing with men in public and having them teaching. Those of us who put scripture as a priority are called on to obey the scripture even when that is in conflict with our culture. Bishop Robinson is saying that the culture has moved in his direction and that it’s all becoming accepted, so he’s looking for ways to interpret scripture to support that instead of realizing that scripture asks us to do the unpopular thing and stand against the prevailing culture.”

Robinson’s 2003 consecration caused further division in the Anglican church between liberals and traditionalists, causing some to suggest he should be “struck down by thunder and lightning bolts.” In some cases, traditional congregations have sought to shift their affiliation with the worldwide Anglican communion from liberal American bishops to bishops in Africa where a conservative understanding of Biblical morality still dominates.

Robinson, however remains undaunted by the criticism, saying he has reconciled his homosexuality and his faith. “God’s light and God’s life ooze over me like warm butter,” he declares.

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